Delafield disclaimed any such intention, and they went back to the drawing-room to look for his hat and stick. Julie still had her arm round Therese and would not let the child go. She clearly avoided being left alone with him; and yet it seemed, even to his modesty, that she was loath to see him depart. She talked first of her little menage, as though proud of their daily economies and contrivances; then of her literary work and its prospects; then of her debt to Meredith. Never before had she thus admitted him to her domestic and private life. It was as though she leaned upon his sympathy, his advice, his mere neighborhood. And her pale, changed face had never seemed to him so beautiful—never, in fact, truly beautiful till now. The dying down of the brilliance and energy of the strongly marked character, which had made her the life of the Bruton Street salon, into this mildness, this despondency, this hidden weariness, had left her infinitely more lovely in his eyes. But how to restrain himself much longer from taking the sad, gracious woman in his arms and coercing her into sanity and happiness!
At last he tore himself away.
“You won’t forget Wednesday?” she said to him, as she followed him into the hall.
“No. Is there anything else that you wish—that I could do?”
“No, nothing. But if there is I will ask.”
Then, looking up, she shrank from something in his face—something accusing, passionate, profound.
He wrung her hand.
“Promise that you will ask.”
She murmured something, and he turned away.
* * * * *
She came back alone into the drawing-room.
“Oh, what a good man!” she said, sighing. “What a good man!”
And then, all in a moment, she was thankful that he was gone—that she was alone with and mistress of her pain.
The passion and misery which his visit had interrupted swept back upon her in a rushing swirl, blinding and choking every sense. Ah, what a scene, to which his coming had put an end—scene of bitterness, of recrimination, not restrained even by this impending anguish of parting!
It came as a close to a week during which she and Warkworth had been playing the game which they had chosen to play, according to its appointed rules—the delicacies and restraints of friendship masking, and at the same time inflaming, a most unhappy, poisonous, and growing love. And, finally, there had risen upon them a storm-wave of feeling—tyrannous, tempestuous—bursting in reproach and agitation, leaving behind it, bare and menacing, the old, ugly facts, unaltered and unalterable.
Warkworth was little less miserable than herself. That she knew. He loved her, as it were, to his own anger and surprise. And he suffered in deserting her, more than he had ever suffered yet through any human affection.